Middletown projects operating in $844K deficit in 2023; year called ‘corrective’

Council also approves 5% to 5.75% pay raises for public safety employees, costing $1M more.

Money was the major topic during Tuesday’s Middletown City Council meeting.

City Manager Paul Lolli presented the 2023 annual budget that projected the city operating at a $844,000 deficit and spending an additional $1 million on salaries next year for employees in the police and fire departments.

Typically, Lolli said, the city operates in the black. For instance, Middletown ended 2021 with an excess of $2.5 million and is projected to conclude this year with an excess of about $1.5 million, according to Nathan Cahill, assistant city manager.

The 2023 budget projects the general fund revenue to be about $38.4 million with expenses at about $39.25 million, Cahall said.

While Lolli called the projections “concerning” he said there are “logical and understandable” reasons. He called 2023 “a corrective year” as the city addresses problems that should have been handled the last five years.

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Most of the added expenses are due to the expected hiring of seven city employees in 2023, three in public works, two in the police department and two administrative positions, Cahill said.

It’s important to remember, he said, income and property tax revenue is a “conservative” estimate, while expenses take into account “worse case scenarios.”

For instance, Cahill said, employees are projected to be hired Jan. 1 and sign up for the most expensive health care. That usually doesn’t happen, he said.

Lolli said the city doesn’t plan on making operating in a deficit “a habit,” but it’s important to increase staffing and improve city services.

He also hinted the city may soon announce a company that plans to hire 45-50 well-paying employees with the possibility of 75 employees.

City Council will hear the second reading of the resolution at its next meeting on Nov. 15.

Council members were asked to authorize Lolli to enter into a memorandum of understanding with police and fire department employees and declaring an emergency. No action was requested until the Nov. 15 City Council meeting.

But council member Rodney Muterspaw, the former police chief, wanted the legislation to be an emergency with no second reading so the public safety employees could receive their larger checks earlier. Mayor Nicole Condrey objected, saying she wanted residents to have two weeks to bring their concerns to council.

Then Muterspaw’s suggestion was unanimously approved by all five council members.

“It’s important to keep our people,” Muterspaw said.

So all public safety employees will receive a 5% wage increase, and sergeants and lieutenants in the police department will receive a 5.75% increase, all retroactive to Aug. 21, 2022.

Lolli said the increases are needed to help the city retain and recruit employees.

He said only four of the 56 patrol officers took the sergeants exam.

“That’s not good,” he said.

When asked while others weren’t interested in promotions, the patrol officers said the pay difference wasn’t “worth the headache,” Lolli said.

The 0.75% additional raise increase will “widen the gap” between patrol officers and sergeants, according to Lolli. There are 10 sergeants and one lieutenant and the difference between 5% and 5.75% will cost the city an additional $8,200, Lolli said.

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